Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Ecosystem Services in Río Canandé, Ecuador

Camera Trap image of Ocelot

Camera Trap image of an Ocelot taken in the Rio Canandé Reserve

Site location and ownership

Río Canandé Reserve is situated in Esmeraldas province on the banks of the River (Río) Canandé in north-western Ecuador, in the western foothills of the Andes at an altitude of around 500m above sea level. The reserve is presently over 2,200ha in size with a future target of 10,000 ha, and is owned and managed by Fundación Jocotoco.

Biodiversity value

The reserve receives up to 16,000mm of rainfall each year, making this one of the wettest places on Earth.

Numerous Chocó endemics are found within the Río Canandé Reserve, including the spectacular Long-wattled Umbrellabird (Cephalopterus penduliger) (classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species).

This reserve and surrounding area also supports large mammals such as Jaguar (Panthera onca) (Near Threatened) and Baird’s Tapir (Tapirus bairdii) (Endangered). The reserve is also home to Brown-headed Spider-monkey (Ateles fusciceps) (Critically Endangered).

Conservation action

Once stretching almost uninterrupted from Panama in Central America, down through Colombia and into northern Ecuador, the Chocó has now been reduced to isolated patches of forest. Those surrounding Río Canandé are among the most extensive remaining, and yet even here deforestation rates are amongst the highest in South America – over 40% of the Ecuadorian Chocó that existed 50 years ago has since been cleared or heavily degraded. Logging and clearance for agriculture and oil palm plantations are the key drivers of deforestation.

Logging activity in Canande

Logging near the border of Rio Canandé Reserve; evidence of the real threat to the survival of these forests © WLT

Carbon Balanced Programme

As in the wider Ecuadorian Chocó, the forests in this region are being actively logged and cleared for agriculture, including the development of commercial oil palm plantations, making this a classic candidate for REDD-style intervention. The Carbon Balanced programme has been assisting with the protection of forests at Río Canandé since 2009 when a parcel of forest on the deforestation frontier and under imminent threat of clearance was secured, generating emissions offsets for Carbon Balanced supporters. Further purchases of similarly threatened forest during 2010/11 have expanded the area of habitat preserved through the Carbon Balanced programme here at Río Canandé.

Over the 20 year project accounting period, Carbon Balanced activities at Río Canandé will sequester tens of thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide, whilst preserving what is undoubtedly one of the richest, most ecologically diverse forms of tropical forest habitat on Earth. The majority of offsets will be secured through avoided deforestation, with assisted natural regeneration of vegetation in marginal areas of heavily degraded or recently cleared forest achieving the remainder.

Community benefits

An existing dwelling within the reserve has been adapted to form a visitor lodge, potentially benefiting the local area through visits by tourists.

The future

The WLT continues to work actively with Fundación Jocotoco to support further land purchase at Río Canandé with a view to meeting its 20,000 ha target size for the reserve.

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